Amira looks at the garden behind her. "It has to be today!" The couple's unexpected visit changes the life of the gamer girl.
(Author Notes at the End.)
"I Lived Here..."
"What's wrong with them? I'm only 22!" I mashed the keyboard button as I complained to my friends online. We were doing a Co-op Mission in a shooter. "I don't want to marry Now! Why are they so~ in a Hurry!"
I heard a chuckle from the other side of the microphone.
"I mean, he doesn't even have a Job!" I knew I was the unreasonable one, but #$@% it if I had to marry that dreamy-looking guy my mother recommended only to live in poverty... Not happening!
"I won't leave 'im on the table if were you, Amira." My friend snarked.
"Ugh!" I was going, to retort, but a high-pitched sound stopped me. "Wait you guys, the Doorbell's ringing!"
My anger intensified as I had to greet whoever came to visit. I had to walk all the way to the entrance of this $&@# big house while forcing a smile. It's probably the postman or something. Maybe the magazine forgot I unsubscribed to the print version ages ago.
"I'll drop out of the game," I said just before I cut off the connection. "Meet you in the next one in 10 minutes."
I never came back to the game that day.
"Can I help... you?" I found two people at the entrance. Though their unexpected demeanor threw me off.
I didn't have time to absorb their figures before the man in the front approached me at the entrance. "Can I ask you a favor?"
"...Pardon?" It didn't make any sense. A stranger wastes people's time asking favors? Is he a beggar?! I don't have time for this #%#@!!
"Sorry," I hid my impatience under a fake smile, "Just because our house is big doesn't mean we're rich--"
"C- Can we see your garden, please?" The man asked. His tone was weird. He pleaded as if he didn't want to do this and expected to be turned down.
"Please..." Another voice sounded.
At that point, I noticed the other figure. A woman. No, a Lady. She looked elegant, rich, and beautiful. Yet, I didn't wish I was her at that moment. Her face was too pale. Her whole figure looked afraid. Her trembling hand clutched the man's arm sleeves. 'This woman shouldn't see my #$%@ garden, she should see a Doctor!'
"A-Are you okay?" I managed to ask about her without voicing my inner feelings. "Why do you want to see the garden?"
I stared at the man, judging him for doing this instead of taking her to the hospital.
"We n- need to see it. It'll only take a few minutes... I- ...She ...uh." The man nervously gestured with his free hand around his head. "Sorry, I- I don't know how to explain, my mind is blank right now."
"Sorry, but my parents aren't home. Can you come back tomorrow?" Unreasonable as it sounds,
"I- It has to be today!" The man raised his voice. Impatient. Maybe even afraid.
"See, you--" I was going to retort, but the lady interrupted.
"I lived here... Please..." Her voice was weak but determined. "...Won't you let me see this place one last time."
At that point, I became more curious, than frustrated.
"Malek, right? Can you two wait here please?"
I went inside the house and thought back on the two people I left at the entrance. I asked for their names and gave them mine. I let them know I'll let them in after a few minutes.
I felt bad for making the lady wait. I couldn't let them enter the house alone, however. Someone has to be around them and I'm the only one in the house right now. On the off-chance something is stolen, I don't want to be responsible if my father's @#%$ has gone missing!
I took my keys and closed all the doors inside the house. As I did, I realized I was still in my sweatsuit, so I wore a more presentable outfit. I blushed when I realized I let a man see me like that.
"Amira... Be careful." My friend said to me after I messaged our groups about what happened and how I'll be late.
On my journey back, I mentally rehearsed their names.
The man's name is "Malek," and apparently the lady was his wife "Sajdah." They seemed to want to see something in my garden-- Her old garden. I quickly finished the preparation as my intrigue about their reasons intensified.
'What if this garden held a treasure?' I couldn't help but have thoughts like that.
"Sir Malek, lady Sajdah... You can enter now." I opened the door, the man glanced away from me to his wife for a moment. They smiled at each other. Relieved. "Thank God, thank you!"
As they entered, the Sajdah's expression relaxed. Still, her trembling hand kept clutching her husband's sleeves.
Malek and Sajdah went from the entrance to look at the Trees. Sajdah examined the walls, the well, and random spots.
I never cared about our garden, and if you asked me what Trees we had, I wouldn't be able to answer. Yet, she focused on every detail.
Sajdah walked weakly, slowly, and stopped for a while before moving again. I could hear say phrases like "So you're still here" and "That has changed" from time to time.
At one point she looked at an empty spot and started crying. It startled me, how suddenly her figure sank down. Malek went to comfort her but she gestured to him 'It's okay,' after a while.
That left an impression. 'There's nothing there.' There were no flowers, no Trees, and no walls. Only dirt. Yet, she bawled as she looked there. Something should've been there. Or maybe she couldn't bear the floods of nostalgia.
I wanted to ask, but I thought the scene was too sacred to interfere by asking.
I lived in this house all my life, yet, I never thought of our garden for a moment. I was an indoor girl, a proud gamer who hated the sun. As Sajdah delicately touched the grass, I felt guilty watching her. For a moment in my life, gaming was the last thing I wanted to think about.
I glanced at Malek who left his wife alone, and I was shocked at how emotional he looked. He had tears in his eyes, and I swear by God I heard him whispering a 'Thank you' in my direction. Lips unmoving.
"Sir Malek... W- Why did she cry?" I couldn't believe I asked that.
"Sh... She... Sajdah has a terminal illness."
"The $%#@!!" I figured so, but the way he said it hit me like a brick in the head. His mouth uttered the words unnaturally, like I do when I admitted to breaking my first gaming console. He couldn't say it unless he distanced himself from what was happening.
"Is that a language a girl like you should use?" Malek reprimanded my swearing and continued. "Today is her last day out of the hospital... The doctor said, she'll be moved to the hospice after that."
Hospice... I'm sure I heard that word before, but I wasn't sure what it meant.
Malek seems to have noticed my confusion. "She'll be cared for by the hospital for the rest of her life. The doctor said she only has 8 months or a year at best."
"H- How does she feel about that?" I don't know what a good thing to say to a dying person, maybe no one can answer that question.
"Acceptance? She prepared for that for a long time..." His voice trembled. "I'm not as strong as her, and neither is our son."
"How old is she?"
"I'm 36... Pleased to meet you, young girl." Sajdah entered our conversation, I missed the moment she stopped looking at the Trees. Her voice was weak but elegant. Tears have created a path on her face. "Can you answer a few of my questions?"
I suddenly became the point of interest in this conversation.
"Amira... When did you move here?" Sajdah said. She sat on a dusty rock in the garden without caring about her expensive clothes.
"20 years ago."
"Which month?" Sajdah's pale face and trembling hands conveyed to me that she didn't like my answer.
"I wouldn't remember, I was a baby... Sh- should I ask Mom and Da- Father?" I opened my phone to give her their phone numbers, but she gestured for me to stop.
"On the 5th of March 20 years ago..." She started through me, at a distant memory. "We had to move to Germany from here."
'That made sense.' I thought. Her whole demeanor seemed like that of a foreigner.
"My mother had the same condition as me..." She says. "So is my Son, our bloodline doesn't live that long."
As I heard Malek gasp when she said 'son,' I remembered a question I should've asked. "What's the name of the illness?"
"It's not one you hear of..." She mentioned the strange name of her condition. "We're born with a better memory than most, but with shorter life spans, unfortunately." Sajdah looked at her husband. "It's a miracle I saw my son reach the age of 15."
'The &@#$!! If he's 15 now, she had him at 21, right? That's younger than me...' I realized something and instinctively turned in Malek's direction.
"Yes, I married her knowing about the condition." Malek sighed, defeated but not regretful. Then turned to Sajdah and said. "Did I help you have the fulfilling life you wanted?"
"Yes, my dear..." She wiped a small tear that slipped out. "And Thanks for bringing me here today too."
I couldn't help but feel a hint of jealousy at their relationship. I almost wanted to meet my so-called-fiancee just for a chance at something similar to theirs, but I'm a proud gamer who doesn't quit. I said I'm not marrying!
"Dear Amira..." Sajdah brought me back to the conversation. "I left a treasure here, can you help me find it?"
A young girl tightly held a sketchbook as she walked outside the door. Her parents asked her to hurry, but she slowed down. The girl looked at the her last drawing unsatfisfied.
The crayon art piece had two figures at the center of a garden. A girl and her mother planted a seed in the garden. "Next time it blooms..." One of the two would say. "Don't worry, I'm sure someone will be here for it." The other would answer.
The girl drew that scene, made sure that the flowers surrounding the seeds bloomed beautifully. Yet, something about it left her unsatisfied.
She closed the sketchbook. Clutched it hard. Then she got out the door, waving her garden goodbye.
"A Gardening Toolset?"
As soon as I heard about Sajdah's treasure I went back inside the house. I left the door open in my hurry. I didn't care about leaving them roaming around the house alone, or maybe I trusted them with it.
I only wanted to scavenge the Tools from my old closet, or maybe it was in my mother's. They were so old, I didn't know where I'd find them. I ran around the rooms so quickly, I might've lost my ability to reason.
"It's not here either..." I closed another closet.
Why was I so impatient? Maybe if I knew the exact place I put them in, I wouldn't be in such a hurry.
I loved Farming video games. I don't play them as much nowadays but at one point in my childhood, I was obsessed with them. Now I remember why.
"Did one of the tools have the letter S on it?" I asked Sajdah earlier.
"All of them had it." She answered.
As a child, I used to help my mother in the garden.
At one point, I discovered video games. It might've been winter, when I discovered my favorite game series, Story of Spring, which gave me the joy of growing corps without the pain of lifting the dirt.
That was when I replaced reality with fantasy.
At one point, the gardening tools stopped being used, or maybe they got too old. My mother and I loved them, so we told dad to keep them as a memento.
The initial "S" left an impression on me. No one in the family had such thing in their name, so I was curious why would my father buy this exact set. I had my own conclusions but...
"That's right. My father didn't buy them used... They found them in this house in the first place." I said as I finally extracted the Gardening Set from the roof's store room.
I realized I was on the roof, so I looked down on the garden, I saw Malek hugging Sajdah. Ignoring the ping of jealousy at their love, I called out for them.
"Sajdah, I found them!"
The happiness on their faces as their eyes looked at the roof followed my waving hands was a treasure in itself.
"Thank you so much." They said.
"Y- yo already said that." I choose to omit Ten Times from that statement.
I allowed them to come to the roof and see the garden from above. Sajdah started bawling as she said "It didn't change, it didn't change at all." I almost cried as I saw her like that.
After that, we decended down the house, to the garden's entrace. Malek went to prepare their car as I talked with Sajdah.
Sajdah examined the gardening set I gave her for a while, then returned the tools to me. Her hand seemed to have stopped trembling at some point in our conversation. Maybe seeing the garden from above made her healthier. I was relieved at the thought.
"I want you to continue to keep them..." She smiled. "I won't need them anymore."
"No, you should give them to your son!" I tried to give them back to her. "I already had my fill of them." So much I replaced them with gaming ages ago.
"No, no, he's a Boy you know!" We both laughed.
Sajdah's laugh was so weak it reminded me of how critical her health was. "Okay, I'll keep them here. I'll pray for you too."
From the corner of my eye, I saw Malek waiting. He didn't want to interrupt us, but I guess they would have to go. Knowing I'll never see them again stung in my heart.
"Can I contact you?" I managed to say.
"Of course, what's your contact info?" Sajdah asked Malek to come. She didn't seem to have her phone on her.
"Her's our email addresses." Malek wrote with a worn-down pencil.
We had our last farewell, and I clutched the email paper.
"I leave you with the safety of God. Sajdah, Malek."
"I leave you with the peace of God. Amira."
I saw them go out, half sad, half longing. I closed the door of the house, and slowly went back inside.
As I looked at the many messages from my shooting team, I realized a hour have passed since I first opened the door. "I don't feel like gaming anymore..."
I made a tour arojnd the house. I took in each room. I looked at the garden from each window. How could I not see this beauty that a woman from Germany wanted to experience again.
"I should tell my Mom when she comes back." Maybe I should tell Mom about the other thing too.
Room 107. The Hospice Floor.
The nurse opened the door to give a periodic check to her favorite patient. She was surprised to find a big bouquet of flowers setting on the woman's lap.
"Sajdah, what are these?" The nurse tried to sound happy, but the flowers were too fancy for this time of the year, and they were wrapped in a wedding-like ribbons.
"Welcome, these? They're a gift from my friend." Sajdah lifted the not-so-heavy flowers and took them away. "The other nurse brought them yesterday."
"What's the occassion?" The nurse said as she started preparing the hospital equipment for the daily checks.
"Little Amira, my friend, is getting married." She smiled. "She told me in the message she thought really hard about what to give me, since I couldn't be there. Can you imagine?"
"Oh, who's the lucky guy?" The nurse teased.
"I don't know, I never met him." Sajdah chuckled. "But she said, I'm the reason she married at all."
"Well..." The nurse sighed. "Any girl would want a husband after seeing how Malek treats you. Now, raise your chest up."
Sajdah fixed her posture as she looked at the flowers one last time. She prayed for her friend to have a blessed life with her man. As blessed as her own was.
Thanks for reading one of my longer works!
"I Lived Here..." is written for @dreemport's Word of the week Challenge. Prompt: Invisible.
The theme is present all over with Sajdah crying at the invisible memory in Act 4 and 7. Also, the garden was metaphorically invisible to Amira for a long time before the story. Sajdah sees the invisible past in the garden's present. Etc.
This story is inspired by many things, it was one of the ideas I wrote in my notes while watching Youtube one day. I took inspiration from Narcissu and my life for characters. The theme of Dreemport was the trigger for starting this, though Sajdah and Amira took the story in a different direction than the one I wanted them to. Haha.
I tried to have Amira swear a lot in her thoughts, but keep her mouth a bit clean. I don't think I wrote a gamer girl before. I didn't build a lot of Malek's character, but I based some of the Sajdah's personality on one of my favorite characters: Himeko from Narcissu. (Another character I based on Himeko is the unnamed heroine of "White Room Journal.")
What do you think?
I'm really excited to see your opinions of this story. Even if you read one or two acts of it, I'd like to see your comment on them. What could I improve in my next stories? What do you think of the characters? What do you think of the story's cover too?
Do you like the Act structure? I used it before in both "Home Alone" and "I Look Around" so you might like to read them after this. This story structure makes it easier for me to write too, compared to my non-segmented stories.
For now, I'll meet you in another story.
- The cover image is drawn by me using iBisPaint.
|"I Lived Here..." by @ahmadmanga is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0|